Asperger's Syndrome (Asperger Syndrome, Asperger Disorder)

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

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What causes Asperger's syndrome?

If one accepts the conclusion that Asperger's syndrome is one of the autistic disorders, then the causes of Asperger's syndrome would be expected to be the same as the causes of autism. The precise causes of autistic disorders have not been identified, although an inherited (genetic) component is believed to be involved. Supporting this idea is the fact that Asperger's syndrome has been observed to run in families. In some cases, autistic disorders may be related to toxic exposures, teratogens, problems with pregnancy or birth, and prenatal infections. These environmental influences may act together to modify or potentially increase the severity of the underlying genetic defect.

Some authors have suggested a causal role for vaccine exposure (particularly measles vaccine and thimerosal, a mercury preservative used in some vaccines) in autism. However, the overwhelming majority of epidemiologic evidence shows no evidence for an association between immunizations and autism, and experts have discredited this theory.

How common is Asperger's syndrome?

Asperger's syndrome is five times more common in boys than in girls. In recent years, the number of autism spectrum disorders has increased dramatically in the U.S. The reason for the increase is not fully clear, but it likely due to both improvements and modifications in the diagnostic process that result in an increase in the number of children being identified, as well as some degree of true increase in the incidence of the disorders themselves. The most recent studies show that one out of every 110 children in the U.S. has an autism spectrum disorder.

Asperger's syndrome has been estimated to affect two and a half out of every 1000 children, based upon the total number of children with autistic disorders.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/14/2015
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